Energy Efficiency

The University shall undertake a process to increase energy efficiency, reduce dependency on non-renewable energy, and encourage the development of energy alternatives through research and innovation.


St. Paul Chiller Plant

Historic preservation and energy efficiency were the driving forces behind a major construction project on the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota. In 2004 and 2005, the University rehabilitated a historic building in order to combine multiple individual chillers found throughout numerous buildings on campus. The renovation of the vacant site allowed for a more efficient source of energy and has upgraded and improved the reliability of the chilled water supply system. With funding from the Minnesota State Legislature, the Central Chiller Plant has replaced aging and inefficient chillers in 16 buildings across the St. Paul campus which has resulted in annual cost savings for the University of Minnesota in steam and maintenance labor just under $1 million, increased energy efficiency in reducing CO2 by approximately 3,300 metric tons annually, and an overall increase in reliability of the St. Paul chilling systems.

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Energy Design Assistance Program

In coalition with Xcel Energy, the University participates in the Energy Design Assistance program to implement the most costeffective and energy efficient strategies within new construction and major renovation projects on campus. The program provides designers and contractors with a set of energy-saving strategies appropriate for each building project. As additional encouragement to maximize energy conservation practices, Xcel Energy provides financial incentives for applying the strategies in the final design. New construction projects which have taken advantage of the program include the TCF Bank Stadium and the renovation of the Bell Museum.

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Steam Plant

The Southeast Steam Plant, located on the Mississippi River, has been providing energy to the Twin Cities campus for nearly 30 years. Since its acquisition by the University, updates to the plant allow for burning of fuel which is at least 70 percent natural gas, as opposed to a traditional mostly coal fuel mix, and biomass burning. With the ability to burn oat hulls as of 2006, the cost in heating is significantly reduced by replacing some of the natural gas and coal the plant now uses to produce steam. Biomass fuels such as oat hulls are a huge improvement over fossil fuels but with today’s technology, hulls can only be burned in conjunction with coal in order to preserve the boiler. Minnesota is fortunate for its abundant supply of natural resources valuable in the production of biomass and other renewable sources as a substitute for fossil fuel-based energy. The University completed testing in the summer of 2003 which demonstrated that oat hulls burn cleaner than coal. Locally grown, oat hulls are a renewable energy source that does not contribute to the net carbon dioxide production from carbon based fuels such as natural gas. In 2006, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency approved the University’s request to burn biomass, specifically oat hulls, at the Southeast Steam Plant. This results in fuel cost savings and drastic reductions of greenhouse gas emissions in large quantities. Burning a projected 25,000 tons a year of oat hulls saves an estimated $2 million of the cost in heating the Twin Cities Campus annually. Foster Wheeler has just completed a 15,000 ton/year oat hull contract which represents seven percent of the total fuel burned in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

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Building Recommissioning Program

The University of Minnesota started a formal existing building commissioning program in 2004 under the direction of the Energy Management department. Under this program, the University hired outside consultants to investigate all heating/cooling systems and controls within campus buildings in order to identify opportunities for efficiency improvement and energy conservation. This activity is part of the Xcel Energy Building Recommissioning Program which helps
various businesses and institutions finetune their existing systems to save energy and money. Since 2004, Energy Management has made numerous changes to the program and to test results, Xcel Energy has agreed to co-fund pilot studies in various campus buildings to identify constructive achievement.